6 Ways to Get Cheap Internet in 2021

Get cheap internet service by evaluating your usage, negotiating your bill or switching to a less expensive service.
Stephen LaytonJun 10, 2021

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Saving money feels good, especially on costly (but often necessary) expenses like internet.

If you’re happy with your provider, but not your bill, try negotiating or bundling your services. Looking to make a change? If you’re lucky enough to have options, switching providers can help you score a great deal.

6 ways to get cheap internet

1. Buy your own modem and router

Plan to stay with an internet provider for a few years? It might be more cost-effective to buy your internet hardware rather than renting it.

Many providers charge $10 to $15 per month to rent their equipment. If you stay with that company for two years, the total rental costs would be $240 to $360. You can buy a top-rated modem and router for less than $200.

Keep in mind that some providers won't offer support or troubleshooting for your personal hardware.

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2. Reduce your speed

Internet providers are taking high-speed to the next level, with plans that promise download speeds of 100 Mbps or more. That’s great if you need that level of service. Most families don’t.

Dropping to a lower, more appropriate speed could reduce your monthly bill by around $20 or more, depending on your carrier. Consult the chart below to help determine what speed you need, then contact your provider to lower your plan. The recommended speeds assume multiple devices doing the activities listed, so you can adjust down if you only have one device gaming or streaming HD video at a time, for example.

What internet speed do you need?

Number of devices (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.)

Online activities

Recommended download speed

1-3

Basic: Email, web browsing, music and SD video streaming

10.5 Mbps

1-3

Standard: Email, web browsing, music and HD video streaming

18 Mbps

1-3

Enhanced: Email, web browsing, music and HD video streaming, video conferencing

30 Mbps

1-3

Gaming: Email, web browsing, music and HD video streaming, online gaming

30 Mbps

4-7

Basic: Email, web browsing, music and SD video streaming

24.5 Mbps

4-7

Standard: Email, web browsing, music and HD video streaming

42 Mbps

4-7

Enhanced: Email, web browsing, music and HD video streaming, video conferencing

70 Mbps

4-7

Gaming: Email, web browsing, music and HD video streaming, online gaming

70 Mbps

3. Negotiate your bill

You don’t need to be a fast-talking salesperson to play the negotiation game. Your position is simple: I know of a better deal elsewhere, and I’m prepared to leave your company to get it.

Be polite, but firm. Don’t bluff. The better you can back up your position, the more leverage you’ll have. Research the promotional prices that your provider and its competitors are offering to new customers — and be prepared to actually cancel your service and change providers.

4. Bundle your services

If you already have cable, you can save with some providers by bundling your cable and internet service. But beware of the up-sell. Carriers may try to talk you into extra speed or channels for $5 or $10 more per month. Even small monthly increases add up over time, and defeat your goal — to save money.

5. Check on government subsidies

The government offers subsidies for broadband internet if you fall below a certain income threshold or are enrolled in certain government programs. The nonprofit EveryoneOn can help you find out if you qualify.

There’s more information on the Federal Communications Commission website. If your income is at or below 135% of federal poverty guidelines or you participate in government programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid or others, you might qualify for a broadband subsidy.

6. Get bare-bones internet service

If you need to save money while maintaining an internet connection, you might want to downgrade to a limited-data mobile hot spot plan. You can find cheap prepaid data-only plans here. For instance, you can get 1 gigabyte of data per month on a Verizon prepaid plan for $30.

These plans might be suitable for activities such as checking your email or social media a handful of times per month, but perhaps not for streaming video or gaming.

If you can trim $10 to $20 or more off your monthly internet bill, the savings could provide a great start on your emergency fund or a little more leeway in your budget.